In this special presentation with the New Victory Theater, French theater troupe Compagnie 111 presented IJK, a witty, physics-inspired showcase of sonic juggling. Cleverly named for mathematics’ designators of direction in a 3-D world, the show explores space and movement in a balancing act of light and dark that weaves whimsy with geometry.
Following the performance, Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute illuminated connections between the mathematical movement of the acrobats onstage and the science of movement of large bodies — like planets, comets and galaxies — careening and spinning through space.
Heidi Hammel is a noted planetary scientist. Currently, she is senior research scientist and codirector of research at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and the University of Hawaii, she spent nearly nine years as a principal research scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT.
Hammel was a member of the Imaging Science Team for the Voyager 2 spacecraft’s encounter with the planet Neptune in 1989 and led the Hubble Space Telescope’s observations of the spectacular collision of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in 1994. Her current research focuses on studies of Neptune and Uranus with the Hubble and various Earth-based telescopes.
At every step in her career, Hammel has been passionately committed to sharing her research with the public in an engaging and accessible way. She works very closely with the Space Science Institute’s education and outreach program. Both her research and her achievements in science communication have earned her prestigious honors and awards, among them the Exploratorium’s 1998 Public Understanding of Science Award, the American Astronomical Society’s 1996 Harold C. Urey Prize, and the 2002 Carl Sagan Medal.